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My Young Son Should Dream, Not Have Testing Nightmares


My Young Son Should Dream, Not Have Testing Nightmares

Ana Menendez

It was past 10 on a Sunday night and my 4-year old couldn’t sleep. He sat up in bed, whispering, “One plus one is two … two plus two is four … one plus two is three.”

My son had never shown any symptoms of anxiety. Happiness radiates from him. And he’s outgoing to the point of hilarity: He once walked up to a hotel bar and asked if they could give him some milk.

"[Our public schools are] turning what should be the joyful childhood years into miniature versions of the competitive, soulless slog too many of us have accepted as the wages of adulthood."


Nothing like incessant testing to instill the joy of learning. /s


I think Emerson's quote could just as well apply to preschool:

If the colleges were better, if they really had it, you would need to get the police at the gates to keep order in the inrushing multitude. See in college how we thwart the natural love of learning by leaving the natural method of teaching what each wishes to learn, and insisting that you shall learn what you have no taste or capacity for. The college, which should be a place of delightful labour, is made odious and unhealthy, and the young men are tempted to frivolous amusements to rally their jaded spirits. I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Many years after my post grad, I still have occasional nightmares about preparing or not being prepared for a test next day.


"Does anyone really believe that a child's future hinges on his ability to master basic math by age five?"

Well, yes, actually, but that belief is not a good thing.


I suspect our schools do this to turn our lovable, laugh-filled children into adult drones, the easier to be manipulated by our powers-that-be. Young people who are planning on being parents can read Rachel Carson's "A Sense of Wonder" It might help them remember the best parts of their own childhoods, but also guide them in allowing their children to develop a sense of wonder about the natural world and people - rather than about corporations and governments..


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Good point about not having to stress 4 year olds with math that's actually meant for first grade in school.

That being said, i love the kid's spirit of competition: "But he kept insisting that the test was very important and he had to do well....Mrs. ___ won’t give me a gold star". Kid's definitely a contender. He's gonna do well.


I dream. Some nights I dream up solutions to the fossil fuel industry. Some nights I dream up solutions to a corrupt government. There's more, but it's hard to readily explain why people need these other dreams. For example, last night I dreamed of a massively parallel chip design that accomplishes in one cycle what an average computer chip accomplishes in about five cycles. We'll see if it's useful.

I look like an impoverished apartment dweller and a guy that talks to homeless people. People probably wonder why I never made something of myself. Well, maybe I know what I'm doing or maybe I don't. If I know what I'm doing, all of my dreams will explode upon the world in a rush, but I'll have sidestepped most of the grief that the world gives inventors.

Dream, kid.


All these tests and not one of them teaches kids how to question the system they are thrown into. Adults laugh off what children want, occasionally that's valid, but dismissing their real interests in the world and eschewing real questions in favor of the endless barrage of useless half truths they learn in public education is not education as much as indoctrination.


Bullpuppy. Thanks to that approach, most kids, including future teachers, don't learn anything in college. Look around you. A recent report says 10 percent of college grads think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court. This whole discussion smacks of hysteria.


You've got it right; no need to live with suspicions any longer. I don't have the reference or a link available. I did a search looking for a document written by Frederick Gates back in the early 1900's. Gates worked for John D. Rockefeller and established Rockefeller's General Education Board. There are some excerpts included in the links below, but I didn't locate the text of the entire document, but here's an image of the cover with the title if you want to do more searching on your own:

More links:



Rockefeller was an extreme example of an anal retentive type. He like things to be nice and clean, and to operate nice and smooth with no disruptions, unless he was doing the disrupting for the sake of his business empire. He spent a sizeable portion of his vast fortune towards the goal of shaping public education in America to convert the masses into docile worker bees who wouldn't make waves.
The final link centers on the work of a woman named Isbyrt who's spent a lot of time and energy on the issue of public education. I came across her stuff in the past but didn't get around to going into depth on it. From my surface glance at her stuff she seemed to be approaching the issue from a fundamentalist perspective that mimics the religious act put out by right wing leaders. She, herself, seemed to be sincere about the information she published. That doesn't necessarily mean it not true.


Thanks for sharing the information you have - 'tis more than I had.

I remember spending a lot of time as a kid running around in the woods, playing with friends or exploring by myself. In retrospect, my childhood had a lot of "sense of wonder" in it. I see things my companions often don't - and I'm not talking about ghosts or halucinations (sp?), but a way of seeing the world differently. Not unusual, just not super-ordinary.

The magic that we need to re-connect with is all around us, not in the latest version of a cell phone or video game., though
they can be intriguing, too.

I generally did well on tests because I did study, but that doesn't say much about the learning I did. A test only allows you to retrieve recently- acquired information. True learning doesn't happen until you internalize that information and interweave it with everything else you know.

Our current approach to education - satisfying corporate needs will in the future come back to haunt us.


When I was growing up in Flint, Michigan, I lived in a working class neighborhood. Nearby were several tracts of undeveloped and forested land. Further out were open fields. Like you, I was fortunate enough to have had a childhood where I was permitted to explore this to my heart's content.
In the 1950's and 1960's Flint had, in my estimation, an excellent public education system, as far as public education went. And why not? It was a factory town that needed lots of productive workers to fill the needs of manufacturers for laborers. The owners of those factories invested in the public school system that had been developed at the direction of the likes of Rockefeller and Carnegie half a century earlier.
I got through school, but spent more time wondering why things were the way they were than studying for tests. Like you, I see things differently than many of those around me.
We're living in a world where this has been going on for a long time. The world has already become quite a nightmare.
Check your library, or Amazon for a used copy of Morris Berman's "Coming To Our Senses." I thought it was a good read.


Thanks Ana. I expect children in the USA now have to get used to being examined, tested, incarcerated, punished, terrified by guns at an early age to deal with real life in the land of the brave( who are no longer free.)
I am a retired teacher and consider that not only is playing needed, but is much more important in life than transient 'facts', multiple choice guesses, "history" based on exceptionality and hatred of others. Play and social relations are vital for anyone, and we have probably all read "All I need to know I learnt in kindergarten" and it was not tested or feared by the children.


I couldn't disagree more ... especially at the college level. College professors should simply be facilitators to understanding, assisting folks who are passionate about pursuing what they enjoy -- and thereby become experts in what they love. Those without the self discipline shouldn't be there. It's usually the Republicans who always need a forceful Daddy to tell them what to do, in life as well as politics (are you one?).

Your authoritarian, education-Nazi enforcement might be right as far as it relates to funneling a bunch of mediocre business recruits to Wall Street, interested in ruthless get-rich-quick schemes ... ... At the lower educational levels (primary / secondary), more guidance is required, but it can be far less stressful, authoritarian-test-automaton-inducing ... as was the subject of the article to which we are commenting ...


Thamks, again. I will look for Berman's book. Always looking for a good read.